Yesterday, Pfizer announced a FREE Medicines Program for newly unemployed Americans. The new program will help eligible unemployed Americans and their families who have lost their health insurance maintain access to their Pfizer medicines for free for up to 12 months or until they become re-insured (which ever is first).
More than 70 Pfizer primary care medicines will be available through the program, including such chronic medications as Lipitor, Celebrex and Lyrica, but not some of the costly specialty drugs for diseases such as cancer. A key requirement is that a person must have been prescribed and taking a Pfizer medicine for at least 3 months prior to becoming unemployed and enrolling in the program.
The inspiration for the new program, called MAINTAIN (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), was generated by Pfizer employees who were witnessing friends, family and neighbors struggle to make ends meet after losing their jobs. “We thought there must be some way we could help recently unemployed people who are taking Pfizer medicines to continue treatment during theses challenging economic times,” said Dr. Jorge Puente, Pfizer’s regional president of Worldwide Pharmaceuticals, a leading champion of the initiative.
Pfizer employees proposed the idea of MAINTAIN to the company’s senior leadership team just within the last month. Pfizer employees also asked to be able to do their own part by donating their own money to the program, and the Pfizer Foundation will match their donations. Unlike most pharma financial assistance programs, which are aimed at low-income patients, Pfizer’s new program doesn’t have restrictions involving enrollee’s incomes prior to their job losses.
Sounds a little bit like the groundbreaking Hyundai “Assurance” offer –to cover monthly payments in the event that a person becomes unemployed –which received tremendous publicity during this year’s Superbowl coverage.
Across pharma, the barrage of free prescription offers continues to escalate. BMS’ Orencia (Rheumatoid Arthritis) introduced a rich offer Qtr. 1 to help fight the recession–6 free months and one month co-pay for a competitive product if the patient isn’t satisfied with Orencia. Other Pharma companies have also recently expanded patient-assistance programs to help Americans combat the recession.
With nearly 46 million Americans lacking health insurance coverage, and the number increasing as unemployment rates reach their highest levels in 25 years…the steady growth of genericscontinue to create intense pressures on branded pharmaceuticals…
“Pfizer is counting on word-of-mouth to bring attention to the new program. It will not advertise through traditional media, and it won’t need to,” according to Advertising Age.
This is a smart and calculated move given the political pressures on the industry right now!
Beyond drawing some favorable publicity to itself, and perhaps even to the broader pharma industry, will Pfizer’s program dramatically help it to keep patients from actively switching to lower cost generics? How many Americans will actually take advantage of this program and will it have a noticeable impact on prescription trends?
Pfizer’s new program is sure to set off more action across the industry…but true to a leader, they’ve taken a bold first step– trying to stay current with today’s customers.